Saturated Fats Are Still Not “Healthy”
War has been declared on sugar, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, this seems to have given rise to an increased consumption of saturated fats. People are re-embracing red meat, butter, whole milk, and lard as the “now safe” foods. Not so fast. A new study still suggests that saturated fat consumption raises the risk of coronary heart disease.
The new study, published in the British Medical Journal, echoes the findings of two earlier papers published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and JAMA Internal Medicine. The BMJ study accessed data from two large observational studies and supports the notion that if you have a high intake of saturated dietary fat, it should be mostly replaced with unsaturated fat, complex carbohydrates (not refined carbohydrates) or plant-based proteins. Frank Hu, the author of all three papers is a Harvard University nutrition researcher and expert who has been a major leader strongly suggesting the need to sharply limit consumption of saturated fats.
Those who have recently pushed back against Dr. Hu’s research highlight their concerns that these observational studies are not really clear in identifying the negative impact of saturated fats. They also suggest that people who routinely eat a diet high in saturated fats also engage in other unhealthy behaviors (eating more proteins, refined carbohydrates, trans fats and smoking) and those other habits and behaviors could actually be stimulating the higher risk of coronary heart disease. Their other concern is that some of the co-authors of the BMJ study work for Unilever, a maker of margarine and “healthier” spreads. This relationship could be the basis of some bias.
The BMJ paper assembled data based on 24-28 years of follow up of 73, 147 women enrolled in the Nurses’ health Study, and 42,635 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. The research found a strong correlation between SFA’s (saturated fatty acids) and coronary heart disease. The researchers further calculated that replacing 1% daily energy (calorie) intake of SFAs (including lauric acid, myristic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid) with equivalent calories from foods rich in polyunsaturated fats, complex carbohydrates and plant proteins would lead to a reduction of 6% to 8% risk of coronary heart disease.
It would seem prudent at this point to consider saturated fats and foods high in these fats as “treats” in your diet, having them occasionally, and mostly focusing on fruits, vegetables, very lean meat and non-meat proteins, complex carbohydrates and low fat and fat free dairy foods. This outline should make up your family style diet.